Basketmaking

I did a two day basketmaking course on the weekend and came home with this. It’s a shallow willow basket about 14 inches in diameter with a plait border.

The course was run by Sheila Wynter in her beautiful old stone cottage in Stroud, Gloucestershire. It was perfect for beginners and intermediate basketmakers alike and great value at £95 each for two days including lunch and materials. Sheila doesn’t have a website, but if anyone’s interested in doing one of her courses let me know and I will put you in touch with her.

I really enjoyed learning about all the different processes that make up a basket and am definitely going to take it forward, hopefully making  some more primitive baskets with hedgerow plants as well as willow.

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My first atlatl

Here’s the atlatl I’ve just completed. It’s a European-style hazel atlatl measuring 25 inches (21 inches to the spur). The spur is bone and the handle wrap is wool.

The dart is just a practice one I’ve made from 12mm diameter dowelling from a DIY shop. I did it in the style of my practice arrows with white turkey feathers and green and red cresting. The nocking point is cut out from a limpet shell to create a strong and slightly concave nock. The dart is 6 foot 7 inches, which I think is a bit long for me. I might ending up bringing the length down to 6 foot.

The foreshaft and tip is removable, and this one is burnished and polished yew. I’m also going to make a blunt from cork for practicing with. Now to go out and play!

I think for my next atlatl I’m going to try an Alaskan style.

More crocheted things

Following on from my recent post on my crocheted bow quiver, I have been busy crocheting some other things using some 100% wool rug wool I bought online. The top one is a little quiver for my hand drill set, and then there’s two little pouches with yew toggles and a little basket-type thing.

Boomerang and woomera

I found these Australian Aboriginal artefacts in my parents’ loft! The first is a boomerang which would have been used as a throwing stick for hunting small game, knocking things down from trees etc. The second is a woomera, a spear thrower similar to an atatl.

Unlike an atlatl, a woomera typically has this paddle shape. Some had multiple functions and had a cutting edge along one side for chopping, or were used to carry water-soaked vegetable matter. I love the snake pattern carved into the surface of this one. I doubt I’ll be using this one for spear throwing but it’s hugely inspirational.

Bow update

In taking the photos for the crocheted quiver, I realised I hadn’t shown the most recent handle grip I put on my bow in the autumn (the last one was brown). This one is made from black leather, sewn up with a baseball stitch. I prefer the black as it complements the tips.

I made these arrows in the autumn too. They’re not authentic primitive arrows as they use brass points, plastic nocks and machined shafts, but they were good practice in fletching and they make very good practice arrows (not a good idea to use broadheads if you want the thing you’re practice-shooting to last more than five minutes!).

Crocheted quivers and things

Here are some of the things I have been crocheting lately.

I crocheted this quiver last summer soon after I made my bow, but have now just finished the bow quiver to go along with it and a small bag to keep my wrist guard and things in.

Crocheting is the craft of knot tying using a hook. It’s usually associated with delicate lacy creations, but can also be used to create a hardwearing material perfect for insulating outer garments and sturdy bags. It’s quite a slow process, but with practice you can achieve a reasonable speed – I created the little bag in about an hour using a larger hook.

The wool I’ve used here is untreated natural wool from traditional heritage-breed sheep from the British Isles. I will get round to drop spindle spinning at some point but for now I bought this ready spun.

Wool is a fantastic material in that, unlike most modern fabrics, it will retain up to seventy per cent of its insulating properties even when soaking wet. Moreover, the natural greases in untreated wool help shed water faster than bleached wool or acrylic.

I’m going to create some more of these little bags as they are quick to produce and handy for storing and carrying all manner of things.

I’m also going to have a go a creating my own oversized hook and crocheting a fishing net from my own nettle cordage.

Horn wrist guard

This is a horn and leather wrist guard I’ve just finished (for shooting bows). The horn is from longhorn highland cattle and the toggle fastening is bone. It’s fixed with sinew and hide glue.

This wrist guard is based on one I saw at the British Museum made from walrus ivory with a similarly shaped leather strap and antler fastening.

Earth Living twelve month programme

In May I intend to start Earth Living, the new twelve month programme offered by the Native Awareness school. The course will expand on some of the subjects already covered in Native Skills 1 and 2, as well as teaching many new and advanced skills.

The programme consists of nine structured sessions throughout the year, supplemented by an element of supported self study.

The climax of the class will be the survival immersion, where we will go out onto the landscape as a small tribe. We will carry with us very little equipment apart from the tools, crafts and provisions that they have made during the year.  The survival immersion will also be a celebration of our journey during the year.

I will keep an account of my experiences of the Earth Living course here, which I am anticipating is going to be one of the most demanding, and hopefully rewarding, things I have ever done.

Bone spearhead

Here’s a bone spearhead I just finished, hafted into a yew setting with pine pitch and sinew. I can wear it as a pendant, and in a survival situation it can be lashed to a stick with the leather thong to make a spear.

Also known as the USS Voyager!

A History of the World in 100 Objects

This series, on BBC Radio 4, follows Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, narrating humanity’s history through 100 objects. You can listen again using the BBC iPlayer.

Yesterday’s programme was on a two-million-year-old Olduvai stone chopping tool. Neil goes back to the Rift Valley in Tanzania, where a simple chipped stone marks the emergence of modern humans. He tells the story of the Olduvai stone chopping tool with contributions from flint napper Phil Harding, Sir David Attenborough and African Nobel Prize winner Dr Wangeri Maathai.

Today’s object was an Olduvai hand axe. In the presence of the most widely-used tool humans have created, Neil sees just how vital to our evolution this sharp, ingenious implement was and how it allowed the spread of humans across the globe.

Future episodes include a swimming reindeer carving, a Clovis spear point, and a bird-shaped pestle.